How Men In Truly Great Relationships Make Sure Their Partners Feel Heard

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how to improve communication skills

Listening is not enough.

If you’ve ever had struggles in your marriage or relationship, chances are you’ve heard the phrase: "You never listen to me."

As a man with a story of many failed relationships, these words played like a broken record throughout the course of my past. It would get so frustrating when I’d sit there and listen to every word she said, only to hear her say, "You’re not really listening."


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It didn’t matter that I could recite what she said to me back to her word for word. She still insisted I wasn’t listening, which got me thinking: Did I need to learn how to improve my communication skills?

It wasn’t until I began my coaching training that I realized I never learned how to really listen. 

Carl Rogers describes this in great detail in his book, Active Listening. I highly recommend all men read it. If you’re like me, you’ll discover things you were never taught you about listening that could change your life — both instantly and forever.

Once you’re able to listen with your heart (instead of your head), you’ll probably find that what your woman is asking for goes beyond just listening and communication skills. More than likely, she’s asking you to step up as a man and hold space for her.

Holding space  for another one of those skills they never taught you in school.

As a man who strives to be a strong provider for his lover’s needs, you may be leaving out the one thing she needs most: an emotional bucket for her to dump her unwanted trash in. She's asking for your absolute presence as a partner.

As simple as it sounds, most men struggle with this.

We like to fix things. So we listen just long enough to see the problem through our clouded lenses, and go right to the solution. We start offering advice by sharing our “infinite wisdom” and the whole thing blows up in our faces.

When it comes to working through some difficult stuff with my wife, sitting back, keeping my mouth shut, and providing an empty container for her does not come naturally to me. That’s why I have to prepare myself to "hold space" for her when she needs it.

If you’re caught off guard in a restaurant or driving in a car and your woman needs you to hold space for her, here’s what you do:  Find the nearest restroom, and lock yourself in a stall. It may not be the most pleasant olfactory experience for you, but you just may come out smelling like a rose to your woman.

Then, follow these steps to prepare yourself to "hold space" for your woman and improve the communication skills you bring to your relationship:

1. Find a quiet spot to center yourself and breathe. 

The first thing you need to do is center and ground yourself. It’s very likely that some of the issues that come up will trigger your own stuff. After all, you are soulmates. It’s important that you have a plan to keep yourself grounded and remember your role as the "container."

If you abandon that role by making it about you, there’s no container left for either of you — and you essentially become the gasoline to her fire.

2. Create an anchor. 

An anchor is a trigger you create for yourself that helps you stay grounded. A small gesture, like grabbing your earlobe or scratching your palm, works well.

Use it when you sense yourself getting distracted, wanting to puke up advice, or anything that would indicate your own ego is popping up. If this is going to end well, your ego needs to be in time-out.

3. Practice deep listening. 

Deep listening involves using all your senses. Notice her tone, pitch, and volume when she speaks. Watch her body language for what she’s really trying to communicate to you.

These cues often indicate something very different from the words that come out of her mouth. Feel what she’s saying with your heart, rather than hearing with your head.

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4. Trust her ability to work through her own stuff. 

Her process is different than yours. She may appear that she’s losing her mind or going around in circles and getting nowhere.

It’s up to you to let go of your preconceived judgments about how the process should go, and remember you’re just her bucket. The fact that her process is so different from yours may be the very reason you make beautiful music together.

5. Use the power of touch. 

A gentle caress of her hand or a properly timed hug can make all the difference. Use your intuition to guide you on this one. And always make sure the gesture is for her and not you.

6. Acknowledge, appreciate and validate her feelings. 

Let her know how much you admire and respect her courage to be completely vulnerable with you. Then express how grateful you are that she trusted you to be that container.

You may also ask her if there’s anything more she needs from you right now. And if she says no, shut up!

7. Recognize the emotional reaction this causes in yourself.

More than likely, this experience will stir up some shit in you that you need to talk through. I highly recommend that you do — just not now.

Call on the warrior that lives in you, and put it on a shelf until you can get with a brother or group of brothers as soon as possible. Right now, you’re the lover.

RELATED: 10 Dos And Don'ts For HEALTHY Relationship Communication

Greg Boudle is a transformation coach for the recovering man. After spending decades as a hopeless addict he rewrote his own life story and transformed his past into the gifts he uses to help others. His coaching program, “Hero’s Journey – Revised Edition” has helped men in mid-life return from the brink of suicide to living happy, fulfilling lives with purpose. To find out more about Greg and his mission visit lifebeyondclean.com or as Greg would prefer it, shoot him an email at greg@lifebeyondclean.com.

This article was originally published at Life Beyond Clean. Reprinted with permission from the author.